The pipe material in your home can determine how long your plumbing system will last and what types of corrosion could affect it the most. Whether you’re building a new home and want to make an informed decision, or you want to determine the lifespan of your current system, our list of pros and cons of the most popular pipe material can help.
Copper pipes have been used in home construction since the 1960s and was the choice material for most projects, as the metal isn’t prone to leaks. Copper pipes can potentially last 50 to 70 years and ward against polluting your drinking water. While this pipe material is tolerant of heat, it is one of the most expensive options for plumbing. A stretch of 100 feet of copper pipe can cost around $285. Copper pipes come in a variety of sizes and are considered a good pipe choice if you don’t mind paying the higher cost.
Galvanized Steel Pipes
While galvanized steel is rarely used today, homes built between the 1930s and 1980s were often constructed with the material. Galvanized pipes are known for producing lead in drinking water and often need to be completely replaced. The material is extremely heavy, making it difficult to work with, and internal rusting is a common occurrence because of the zinc coating. Over time these pipes can cause clogged water lines or reduce your home’s water pressure. Galvanized steel pipes will eventually need to be replaced by a different material.
Polyvinyl Chloride Pipes(PVC) are a plastic material that is frequently used in construction thanks to its resistance against corrosion and rust. The material is inexpensive, lasts for nearly 50 years and can handle high water pressure. Drain lines from your sinks, toilets and bathtubs are likely PVC pipes and the material can be used for the main water supply line into your home. The downside of PVC pipes is they warp when exposed to hot water, so they shouldn’t be used in all areas of the home.
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride Pipes (CPVC) are a plastic material that lasts for roughly 50 years and can be used for cold or hot water. The material is slightly more flexible than PVC and can be easily used in a DIY plumbing repair. While the pipes can handle cold water, they’re prone to split if they freeze and this material can’t be recycled when it’s replaced or repaired.
Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX) is a plastic pipe material best used for retrofits. The material is malleable, can last for roughly 50 years and is often used inside walls. This material can host hot or cold water and is resistant to heat. Despite PEX passing many environmental standards, there is some concern from environmentalists that the material may eventually cause contamination in drinking water.
Determining which type of pipe material is best will depend on your plumbing job. Weigh the costs of the material with its limitations to determine if your home will be best served by a metal or plastic material.